"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Voting on secession. Again.

rainey BARRETT


Here they come again! This time it’s California. Again. But, over the horizon, we could be talking about several counties in Oregon. Again.

The secessionist birds are flying once more in California’s Tehama and Del Norte Counties where they’ll be voting Tuesday – officially, of course – to have county commissioners – they’re called “supervisors” South of our border – push harder to pry certain counties loose to create the State of Jefferson. Butte County folks will deal with the same issue on the 12th. Glenn, Modoc, Siskyou and Yuba have already voted to go – stage right. Far right. And out.

Given how long malcontents in Oregon’s Josephine, Jackson, Douglas and Curry counties have been trying to bring the issue of secession to a vote, this new effort may “juice” them up to try yet again. Wouldn’t be surprised.

At the root of these useless expenditures of time and money is, of course, frustration. Some of it real. Some not so much. A guy named Aaron Funk in Del Norte, makes the “frustration case” for leaving California.

“We have 11 counties up here that share one state senator while Los Angeles has 20 and San Francisco 10 more,” he says. “Essentially, we have no representation whatsoever.”

There is some tiny, frustrated logic to that. Except for laws requiring equal representation based on nose-counting. One basic point adding to Mr. Funks angst is the real isolation of Northern California from the rest of the folks. The seven counties that have voted to leave – and the others who likely will next week – have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire but only about 467,000 souls residing. Mt. Shasta and all the redwoods are there along with some of the state’s poorest citizens. Racially, the population is nearly all white.

But Washington and Oregon residents living east of the Cascades could make almost the same case for almost the same reasons. Far from the seats of power, less political representation, lower economic scales and heavily white. So far, they haven’t. Officially.

Siskyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong already wants to pull out. She’s one of the Tea Party secessionists and says there are “too many nanny laws” coming out of Sacramento.

So how would the secessionists handle the financing of a separate state given that all states are required to take care of citizens therein? Well, depends on who’s doing the talking. Most often cited example of how things would be better is pretty plain. And plainly not possible in the real world. Just get rid of the feds, dissolve all those pesky state agencies that keep messing up their lives and build a government made up of only what’s necessary. But – when it comes to defining “necessary” there isn’t much commonality.

Other voices in the separatist forests go on at length how there are so many minerals and forests and agricultural lands that financing a whole new state government would be a piece of cake. Sell a bunch of it. Rent out a bunch of it. Sounds good unless you remember most of those assets are federally owned and would almost certainly remain so – new state or not. Ask other Western states about that immutable fact..

Other voices wanting to split up California have a different bone to pick. The state, they say, has become so large, so populated, so ethnically and economically diverse it’s not possible to effectively govern it all. So, you hear schemes of dividing all that real estate – and all those people – into three to six new states. But – if you just took those 13 counties that want to be in the new State of Jefferson, the state legislative analysis office puts them right on the economic bottom. Again.

Some thinking folks in those counties are damned scared. Specially educators. They don’t see any of this helping out their school systems. In fact, they fear the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars that currently underwrite their districts. In Del North County alone you’re talking about 32 million state dollars which is 90% of annual operations costs. Where would that – or any meaningful percentage – come from if the California Department of Education dropped out of the picture? Or the hated “feds?”

Lots of more responsible folks want all this whole secessionist B.S. to go away. They see worse economic conditions and higher unemployment in counties where there are already too many jobless. They see less law enforcement in counties where cuts in the number of sworn officers and prosecutor’s staffs have already left law-abiding citizens vulnerable. They see infrastructure of roads, sewer and water districts and transportation issues deteriorating even further.

Voting takes place Tuesday and a week from Tuesday. Street gossip says all – or nearly all – counties will vote “yes.” Then what?

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